Our friend Kenji asked me a little while ago "So what do you think of Japan?". I have been thinking about this for quite sometime and I was able to answer with just one word. The other thing that has been most noticeable about Japanese life is their tolerance of temperature extremes inside their living areas. Both have been especially reinforced by our living here in Ibaraki-Ken during the summer.
Shops such as SoftBank are stifling hot in winter and grocery stores just as in Winnipeg ridiculously cold. Old houses had open beamed attics that probably allowed air flow to keep the building somewhat cool. Now homes have internal ceilings and are probably hot enough to boil water in the attic. This attic heat causes the ceiling to act as a radiant heater. Homes here tend to have no shade trees, no central air, no central heating and this combined with global warming in the summer and global cooling in the winter can make life very uncomfortable. Do people in Canada wear a down filled jacket when cooking in the winter?
We escaped to Hokkaido the last week of July and were gone three weeks which were probably all hot weeks. The two weeks that we have been back are both hot weeks. That means about 34°C during the day and about 28°C at night. Thousands have suffered heat stroke and over a hundred have died.
During the week I have been getting up before 5am and working in the field for one to two hours. Then I take a short break, walk the
dog (already too hot for Muku) and then we have breakfast about 8am. In the evening Muku gets walked just before sunset. During the day we relax as best we can and frequently have the wall air conditioner (Japanese style AC) on from about 3pm to 6pm. Akio Okano works from 6am to about 12:30pm and then has lunch and a siesta until 2:30 or 3pm. He then works on the farm until close to 7pm and it is quite dark at that time (no daylight saving time here). I would have heat stroke every day, if I tried to keep up to him.
What is Japan? Japan is a jungle. In the winter some of the vines become almost invisible, but in summer it is unbelievable. Wisteria vines crawl over the road and vines as thick as your wrist choke trees. The kudzu (legume) vine is alive and well here. It is not quite the pest it has become in countries such as the USA where some nitwit introduced the vine. Here there are enough competitors including farmers that some semblance of control is being maintained. But I suspect if you stood in one spot for an hour you might be entangled by these crazy vines. The photographs show green on green so the kudzu may not show up that well, but they are climbing over everything. Then there are the immense forests of "sugi" or cryptomeria trees which the government here has had planted everywhere. And what is the farmer's first enemy that must be removed before anything can be grown, the many varieties of bamboo.
Click on Jungle to see photographs on Picasa.